Color her creative

I could not believe it! It wasn’t until that moment that I realized the potential of the project and how big of a donation I could actually make to the organizations in Belize

UIndy’s Anna Elzer is using an unusual approach in heading up her special service project. As a result, she’s now known on campus as the “colored pencil lady.”

With her passion for helping others,this creative education major raised funds for three organizations in the Central American country of Belize by creating and selling colored pencil bracelets. The University enjoys an affiliation with Galen University in Belize, and some UIndy students arrange to study there for a time in what’s described as a tropical paradise.

“This project came together quite unintentionally, to be honest,” Anna explains. “I made the first colored pencil bracelet for my sister as a Christmas gift, and just from her wearing it, popularity and demand for them became evident. I was planning my Honors project right then and was inspired by previous Honors students to make and sell the bracelets to raise money for an organization.”

Those students had created Inches International, a very successful venture that raises funds for schools in West Africa.

Believing in Belize

It wasn’t until Anna, now a senior, took her first trip to Belize in May 2010 that her project really came together. She worked at Hills of Promise school in Benque Viejo.

“I immediately fell in love with Belize and all the students there! I was just starting the Education program at UIndy, and teaching these students was such a new experience for me. I was ready to go back to Belize from the moment I left,” Anna says.

And that’s just what she did. She returned in May 2011 to work again with students at Hills of Promise.

Creating a bracelet craze

The bracelet sales had just begun, but it wasn’t long before they were a hot commodity on campus and around the city.

“It’s amazing how many people you see on campus wearing those bracelets,” says Admissions counselor Kari Martin. “You just see them everywhere.”

Anna says, “I really didn’t have to do any advertising, because they gained plenty of attention from everyone wearing them. I was soon asking for colored-pencil donations to keep up with the demand.”

Last fall, Anna participated in Masterpiece in a Day, an event in the nearby Fountain Square district for local artists to sell their work.

In that one day, Anna sold more than $1,100 worth of bracelets. Anna continued to sell the bracelets at other art shows in the city and on campus. By the time she made her third and final trip to Belize in December, she’d raised $4,000. The donations went to Hills of Promise school; to Mary Open Doors, a domestic abuse shelter for women and children; and to Octavia Waight, a senior living center.

“I had worked with each organization during my previous time in Belize,” she says. “It was great to be able to help them one last time.”

Pitching in, helping out

“I could not have done this project without the help of the UIndy community,” Anna points out.

“My professors have truly influenced this project, from introducing me to Belize to helping me appreciate culture and diversity and understanding this project’s potential. I’m so grateful for the support and guidance given to me from both professors and students. Everyone donated, bought, sold, and helped make these bracelets, which in turn allowed this project to become such a huge success.”

Anna finally had to stop cranking out the bracelets this semester to focus on her student teaching and finish her education degree.

But, she says, “I want to keep traveling to other places internationally and experience even more. Belize will always have a place in my heart and I would love to go back again. But for now my sights are set on new places and new adventures.”

—Candi Witzigreuter, Class of ’12